I have been a working mum since 2013. I have worked part time, full time and as of now, I am working from home as a blogger. Some days being at full time work was extremely difficult while on others it was nice to be able to sit and have a hot cup of tea without having to wipe a nose or change a bum! I know there are a heck of a lot of working mums out there, some who love it, some who hate it and others who are somewhere in the middle. I thought it would be interesting to see exactly how others feel about being a working mum and maybe we can all learn a little something about dealing with that dreaded mummy guilt!
Today we meet the lovely Alice from Letters To My Daughter talking all things working mummy!
Tell me a little bit about who is in your family.
In my little family there’s my husband, Dave, and my daughter, D, who is 2.5 at the moment. It’s just the three of us and likely to stay that way! Both our families live nearby too so we’ve got a good network of extended family around us.
What age were your children when you returned to work?
D was 12 months when I started dipping my toe back into the working world, and 14 months when I returned to work properly.
Did you return to a job away from the home or within the home?
I’m pretty lucky that I was able to return to a home-based job. I am expected to go into the office at least once a week to keep in touch, although these days it’s usually twice because I like to know what’s going on and stay up to date with my colleagues.
Did you choose to return or did your circumstances force you back?
A bit of both I think. I hadn’t really considered not returning – it’s a family business (my mum started it in the garden shed in 2010) so I almost feel like I never really stopped as I was always kept up to date with company news over Sunday lunch with my parents! Dave also works for the business so work was never far from my thoughts. Although we probably could have scrimped and survived on one income, we’re much more comfortable when I’m working too. If I’m perfectly honest, it was almost a relief going back to work and having a few child free hours each week. I loved being at home with D for that first year, but I felt my mind fogging and going back to work really shook the cobwebs away.
Did you return to work full or part time?
I used my KIT (Keep in touch) days to dabble initially, and then returned to 25 hours a week, building that up to 30 over the last year and a half. I fit the hours in here and there, doing a couple of full days a week, a couple of half days, and the odd weekend and evening. Dave has just started university so I’m toying with the idea of going full time again but I really love having that extra time with D, and I volunteer on Mondays as a breastfeeding peer supporter so wouldn’t want to give that up.
What childcare do you have in place and how did you go about choosing it?
D goes to a childminder called Jodie who has a couple of staff working with her in a custom built ‘playroom’ at the bottom of her garden. It’s like a mini nursery and they can have up to 9 children there at a time which I really like. We looked at lots of nurseries when we were trying to decide about childcare, but the one we liked best was quite expensive. A friend had been to see Jodie’s setting and mentioned it to me when I said I was looking, saying it was a really lovely place and not too expensive.
Again, I was lucky because I hadn’t got fixed days to work at that point so I could be flexible based on what she had available. D started on 1.5 days a week from 11 months (I used that first month to sort the house out child free – bliss!), and went up to 2.5 days when she turned 2 as Dave went full time at that point. He had been doing 4 days a week and looking after D on Fridays.
Dave’s mum also has D one afternoon a week which is really lovely and very helpful! My mum has just this month gone down to 4 days a week and is taking over the Friday shift so D is back to 1.5 days with the childminder. I really appreciate the help from our parents and love that D gets to spend quality time with her grandparents.
What do you find the most difficult about being a working mum?
Honestly, the most difficult thing is having to drop everything to go and pick D up. My job is never really ‘done’, and I’ve got lots of ongoing projects; often I’ll really be getting into something and making good progress and then my alarm will go off and I have to stop mid-flow, which is really frustrating. Before I had her, I was the sort of person that would stay at work until 10pm when I was on a roll and get it finished. Now I find myself being cut short at 5pm, having a nice evening with D, then picking up where I left off in the evening and not going to bed until a silly time. I know it’s not healthy so I try not to do it too much, but when inspiration strikes I must jump on it!
How do you deal with the working mummy guilt?
The only time I feel the guilt is when I drop D off somewhere and she tells me she doesn’t want to go and she wants to stay with me. Most of the time she’s fine and enjoys going to Jodie’s or Grandma’s or Nanna’s house, but she has the odd day where she clings on with her tiny, strong arms and it breaks my heart to have to peel her off and leave her crying.
I always explain what’s happening and why I have to go to work, and try to talk to her about the fun things she will do that day, and that I’ll be back later to pick her up. Sometimes that works. When it doesn’t, I remind myself that no matter how distraught she seems sometimes, she’s always happy and smiling when I pick her up and has had a great day.
How did you feel when it was time to go back to work?
A little bit excited, a little bit nervous. I was going back to a new role that wasn’t client facing or managing people so I could be more flexible. I am now ‘Business Support Manager’ which is a role that hadn’t existed before so it was nice to be able to pave the way and figure it out for myself.
My memory concerned me though – I used to have a fantastic memory and didn’t need to write things down. I could always rely on myself to remember pretty much everything. Since having D though, I can’t rely on it anymore. I’ve got a whole other little life to fit in my mind alongside everything else, so I’ve had to retrain myself to write everything down to stay organised.
I was also worried about how D would be without me there to give her milk. She was still breastfeeding 3 or 4 times during the day and had always hated bottles. As it turns out, the milk I’d expressed for her she wouldn’t touch. She just drank water when I wasn’t there and made up for it when we both got home in the evenings, which my breasts were always grateful for after a long day of no feeds!
Is your work/life balance what you want it to be or would you rather work less or more?
Ideally I’d just like more hours in the day so I could do more of both! I do enjoy what I do, and know I could achieve so much more if I put the extra hours in, but I don’t want to do that at the expense of spending time with Dave and D. Sometimes if I’m immersed in something great at work I want to put more hours in and sometimes if I’m having lots of fun with D I wish I didn’t have to work, but that’s just the way of life I suppose. Overall I’m pretty happy with the balance at the moment.
What advice would you give to a mummy heading back to work?
Do whatever is right for you and your family, and don’t let anyone else tell you differently. I’ve got friends that went back full time quite early and others who have never gone back, plus all kinds of different scenarios in between. None of them are right and none of them are wrong, they’ve just done what worked best for their situation at that time and that’s all any of us can do.
Also, for breastfeeding mums – make sure you know your rights and that your employer doesn’t get in the way of you reaching your breastfeeding goals. Maternity action has some great information here.
Alice thank you so much for taking part and for giving such brilliant answers. It sounds like you mostly have it sussed – except for the working late into the night! I know how you feel on that one though as I am always having to work around naps and sleep! Working for the family business must be really rewarding – knowing that you are growing it for people you love. And it sounds like your daughter has a really great network around her (her childminder sounds awesome!). I hope that over time you manage to balance those balls a little easier but it sounds like you are doing a great job 🙂